Community Board 8’s land use committee has lost a seemingly irreplaceable pillar. Its longtime chair, Charles Moerdler, has stepped down.
He has not resigned as a member of the board, however.
“I have a concern,” Moerdler said. “It’s a deep concern, and it keeps getting worse, and worse, and worse. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been increasingly misdirecting our energies, our political capital, and our credibility in simply venting frustrations and tilting at windmills."
Moerdler apparently resigned during the April 10 CB8 full board meeting after what was an obvious disagreement over how the board should handle alleged code violations over renovation work at 3061 Scenic Place.
While Moerdler supported retroactively approving the work and dealing with the act of violating the codes later, others like CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty was against the move, believing that approving the project after the fact would encourage others to take their chances in violating code.
What Moerdler said he would like to see more of from the board is "prioritizing our concerns and focusing on the changing of things we can change, and preserving those things that are important.”
One example? When CB8 passed a resolution last March opposing tearing down a cinderblock wall on Netherland Avenue between West 254th and West 256th Streets to create a walkway making it easier and safer for pedestrians to travel north-south where the wall was.
Residents from surrounding apartment complexes, however — like Riverdale Gardens, Riverdale Park and Netherland Gardens, as well as some from Skyview — “strenuously objected to building that road,” Moerdler said, “on the grounds that that’s their backyard. That’s where the older people sit in the sun.”
The debate that ensued among CB8 members, however, was in some ways misguided and got bogged down in secondary details, Moerdler said — questions such as when the wall was built, who built it, who had a right to it.
“It wasn’t focused on a basic issue,” Moerdler said. “Help the people. The people who use that backyard.”
Yet CB8’s traffic and transportation committee, the board “took the position — by a narrow vote, I might add — that we were not going to support DOT on this,” Moerdler said. “Because we were taking a constructive position, one that said, ‘We’re putting the people in the backyard first,’ rather than just complaining to DOT and passing a resolution — which was going to go nowhere, because DOT wanted to do it.”
But even with those concerns, Moerdler hinted he might not be gone as land use chair forever.
“For the past 48 hours, I have received calls from every one of the relevant elected officials, asking me to come back,” he said. Moerdler also met and is meeting with a number of senior board members, including Ginty.
“I was as surprised as anybody, and I’m sorry that” Moerdler resigned as land use chair, Ginty said. “I have known Chuck for 46 years, and have worked closely with him from time to time for segments of that.”
Moerdler has been a CB8 member for the entire four-plus decades Ginty has known him, serving on, or as chair of, the land use committee for the majority of that time, Ginty said.
“He has given great service to this community, and I am confident that he will find a path back to the community board,” Ginty said. “I hope he does. He’s not like an institution. He is an institution.”
Whether Moerdler will reclaim his position as land use chair and mount an effort to change the focus to where he believes it should be, time will tell.
“The answer I get from the congressman, the assemblyman, the senator, the council member, all of them, is, ‘Well, if you feel strongly about it, stay in there and fight,’" Moerdler said. "Well, that’s something I’ve got to consider.”
CLARIFICATION: Charles Moerdler had scheduled a meeting with Rosemary Ginty by the time this story published, but had not yet met with her. A previous version of this story did not make that clear.